Old Dog and New Tricks

Make-Your-Own QR Code Birthday Party Invitation
My "baby" is turning 16 this week, hitting that milestone birthday in a world so different from the one his dad and I knew 34 years ago that it would take a whole blog (not just an entry) to detail the differences.

Luckily, some of those changes are just fun. Like the technology that allows blogs or the little square dohickeys called QR codes.

First--in case you are thinking I'm one of those yummy techno mummies who's been tip-tapping at a smart phone since they first appeared--let me confess that our family only finally gave in and acquired texting for the first time this past July.  We really embraced the current century when C gave me an iPhone for my 50th birthday six weeks ago. Before that, we were firmly and even stubbornly Luddites. When I first saw the little Tetris-like QR codes popping up, I just shrugged. More nonsense.

Even after I looked it up, I didn't think it sounded like a very good deal: I scan your QR code--giving you my contact information and therefore a way to bug me--and you give me (drumroll, please)...a webpage to look at. Gee, thanks. Unless it's recipes or a tutorial involving the item (or a coupon, for crying out loud!), big deal. It's just another way to target me for your advertising.

Still, the technology is interesting, and C and I chatted a couple of times, wondering together about the potential. He downloaded a reader but never used it until I snagged it to test my newly minted code today. The whole idea went on the back burner.

This past week, G-man finally announced he'd decided to forgo the big co-ed Nerf-war/Kinect party type we had last year and instead just invite some buddies for a night of gaming, and the two ideas merged.

I want to give each boy/parent a formal invitation. Too much gets lost in translation when there's a sort-of-kind-of invite via FB or by mouth, and I'm the kind of mom who needs to know, so I always get stuck calling and pinning down pesky facts like who-what-when-where-how. (Even though he has chin hair and washboard abs, I'm not about to drop my son off into the abyss of "Whatever" just yet.)   I also knew that  an invitation for a taller-than-me teenager needed to be a bit different from the army party invite I sent to basically the same kids 11 years ago (even if the theme is still essentially the same).

The solution: incorporate a little slice of G's life at 16 in a tech-savvy yet detailed invitation. Even if QR codes go the way of pet rocks, one of these puppies will go in his "memory box" in the attic for him to explain to his kids some distant day in the future:

Scanning the QR code brings the invitee to this webpage:

I've substituted TV-style fake-a-roo info, but you get the idea, right?
Even the stoic G-man had to allow, "That's pretty cool, mom." 

High praise, all things considered.

Want to make your own? 
I expected a sharp learning curve to create a QR code for the invitation, but even this old dog found it surprisingly easy. Here's how:

First, I employed an old trick: read. I googled "best QR code creator," which gave me this article by Jeff Korhan. I couldn't have asked for a better beginner's guide, frankly.  It just all rolled from there. The whole process, down to the actual paper cut-n-paste, took less than 20 minutes. Easiest invitation I have ever made. Here's how, in case your imagination is caught, too.
  1. Create your web content. I created a separate blog (that I intend to delete the day after the party) just  for the purpose. I embedded sensitive details (phone, etc.) in a photograph so that it's not searchable, for privacy's sake. 
  2. Shorten the address to the content you just created. There are several  options for this; I chose goo.gl. (Ha. Ha. Get it?) Just follow the directions onscreen. Takes all of about 10 seconds.
  3. Copy and insert this new T-tiny url into a QR code generator. Again, there are many, but I chose Kerem Erkan's pro app, which cost me all of $2.99. It was insanely easy. There are free generators, too. This one would let me adjust the colors sort of like a MS Tag, but in the end, I liked the starkness of the black and white. To me it makes the shape obviously some sort of information, not merely a cute design. (It's nice to have the option, though.)
  4. Copy the image produced and proceed to create your invitation. You could go all electronic, of course, but few of G's friends check their e-mails regularly. I sure didn't want him to post it on his FB page for fear that even a fraction of the kids he's "friends" with might show up. (I want him to have a good time, but I would like my house to be standing on Sunday more.) Instead, I went old school and dragged out the black card stock and a glue stick.
Because I know these guys, I'm aware that most of them don't have smart phones themselves. Their moms, however, do, and it's the moms I'm trying to get the info to, really.  (G's the oldest, and none of them are street-legal yet, so it's Mom's Taxi still.)

I added this little note of explanation on the back, along with an alternate way to access the invitation just in case mom doesn't want to download the app for some reason. All of the boys have internet access somewhere, even if it's just at school.

While I still need to order the Fresh Strawberry cake and some pizzas and stock up on cokes, I have this inordinate sense of accomplishment.

Older, yes, and grayer. But not quite ready for the pasture yet, thanks.


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